Farmers have demanded greater participation in the planning, implementation and evaluation of public agricultural projects that are designed to boost their production under the Imihigo framework, Transparency Rwanda has said.
Releasing findings of an assessment of an agricultural scheme during a virtual dialogue on Wednesday, June 23, the watchdog said farmers generally don’t feel engaged enough in such initiatives.
The dialogue sought to engage different stakeholders on the achievements and challenges in empowering farmers, with a focus on a Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) project. The idea was to come up with proposals on how best to improve Imihigo, or performance contracts, in the agriculture sector.
Imihigo are annual set of targets implemented by local government authorities, with the objective of accelerating socioeconomic development.
“Citizen participation in planning and evaluation is still low, at 58 per cent and 25.3 per cent, respectively,” said Consolatrice Uwingabire, Senior Project Coordinator, GPSA.
‘Centralised decision-making process’
This, she said, was due to the fact that meetings (with farmers) are structured in such a way that residents barely get an opportunity to share their views.
It was also reported that among 31.7 per cent of farmers who participate in price regulations, only 51.7 per cent of them were satisfied with the process, she said.
This was reportedly due to the “inefficient calculations of production cost and that farmers’ representatives go to meetings with no bargaining power”, according to the findings.
“The meetings are more like time to hear announcements than time to give our inputs,” Uwingabire quoted farmers as saying. “It should change.”
The report placed the blame at the feet of local leaders, with Transparency International Rwanda (TI-Rwanda) saying that grassroots officials often deploy flawed methods of evaluation, explaining why farmers were least involved in that aspect as opposed to the planning phase.
Farmers, according to the findings, said local leaders tend to use only a small sample of those who achieved high yields in determining the overall performance, which leads to misleading data and subsequently uninformed decision-making.
TI-Rwanda has been implementing the GPSA project for five years, with an aim to empower farmers at the district level through social accountability tools to improve Imihigo implementation.
The findings were the result of an assessment of farmers’ satisfaction with their participation in Imihigo and political economy analysis on farmers’ empowerment in agriculture-related Imihigo in Nyanza and Kayonza districts.
The report also cited poor customer care among agro-dealers, limited involvement of the youth in the agriculture sector, as well as limited market opportunities for some vegetables, such as Moringa and Macadamia.
Other challenges highlighted by farmers, according to TI-Rwanda, include poor quality of irrigation machines, limited animal factories, scarcity of land, and implementation gaps in land use consolidation policy.
“Citizen participation is a key pillar in Rwanda’s development; that’s not debatable,” said Apollinaire Mupiganyi, the executive director of TI-Rwanda.
In light of the findings, TI-Rwanda made several recommendations for different stakeholders, including local leaders, Minagri, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, farmers, traders, financial institutions, and insurers, among others.
For local leaders, it was recommended that they should organise community meetings that are more interactive, consultative to allow for citizen participation, instead of using the meetings as forums for communicating decisions. They were also advised to provide farmers with more feedback and assistance whenever required.
Regarding the Minagri, TI-Rwanda recommended that it should “continuously monitor and reinforce existing policies that involve farmers in every aspect of agricultural projects”, and to intervene in market networking (locally, regionally, internationally), in case of overproduction of a particular crop.
The watchdog also called for the engagement of veterinarians to find out the causes of failure of artificial insemination services for cows and address them appropriately.
It also urged traders to engage farmers more on how they can meet the desired quality on the market, while also calling on farmers to participate more actively in such projects and to be more accountable and to communicate in case there are loopholes, or funds embezzlement.
To the Ministry of Trade and Industry, TI-Rwanda said there was a need to actively involve farmers – through their cooperatives – in identifying prospective buyers and bargaining for better prices for their produce.
Corruption levels ‘negligible’
Financial institutions were urged to create an agricultural finance desk in their structures to “specifically provide financial services that appropriately address the needs of farmers”.
Also, insurers were called on to “create agricultural insurance packages that appropriately address the needs of farmers”.
Minagri officials promised to act on the recommendations.
Reacting to the findings and subsequent recommendations, Emmanuel Twagirayezu, Quality Insurance Specialist, Minagri, said: “Farmers have to be represented and they are. The issues raised here will be taken into consideration and we will look for sustainable solutions together.”
Meanwhile, TI-Rwanda said the level of corruption in agriculture and livestock services was negligible, while increased participation of women in the sector was commendable.